President Trump is seeking to end extreme affirmative-action guidelines promoted by Obama-era policies that encourage colleges to consider an applicant’s race in the quest for greater diversity, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The decision is a response to a DOJ investigation of allegations that Harvard University holds Asian Americans to higher admission standards. The Obama administration had the chance to investigate the case, but it dismissed the complaint.
Documents produced from 2011 to 2016 by the Obama administration downplay the difficulty established in law to implement affirmative action, and Obama’s policies go beyond what the Supreme Court has allowed regarding race, education, and the promotion of diversity, the Trump administration asserts.
“The action to rescind the documents is likely to escalate a long-running national debate over the role of race in college admissions,” Michelle Hackman of the WSJ writes, “an issue the U.S. Supreme Court has revisited on several occasions since the 1970s.”
In their “Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Postsecondary Education,” the Obama Justice and Education Departments advised colleges on the application of Supreme Court rulings to their admission programs.
The guidelines are based on the assumption that colleges “are acting to achieve diversity.” Some of those points include:
The institution should, based on its particular educational objectives and unique needs, determine how it will achieve the desired benefits it is pursuing. An institution may permissibly aim to achieve a critical mass of underrepresented students ... in implementing its program, an institution should consider whether it can meet its compelling interest in diversity by using race-neutral approaches.
Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable. In some cases, race-neutral approaches will be unworkable because they will be ineffective to achieve the diversity the institution seeks. Institutions may also reject approaches that would require them to sacrifice a component of their educational mission or priorities.
When an institution is taking an individual student’s race into account in an admissions or selection process, it should conduct an individualized, holistic review of all applicants. That is, the institution should evaluate each applicant’s qualifications in a way that does not insulate any student, based on his or her race, from comparison to all other applicants. An institution may assign different weights to different diversity factors based on their importance to the program. Race can be outcome determinative for some participants in some circumstances. But race cannot be given so much weight that applicants are defined primarily by their race and are largely accepted or rejected on that basis.
The Obama policy gave the following examples of how to achieve diversity in admissions:
Example 1: An institution could consider an applicant’s socioeconomic status, first-generation college status, geographic residency, or other race-neutral criteria if doing so would assist in drawing students from different racial backgrounds to the institution.
Example 2: An institution could include in its admissions procedures special consideration for students who have endured or overcome hardships such as marked residential instability (e.g., the student moved from residence to residence or school to school while growing up) or enrollment in a low-performing school or district.
Example 3: An institution could implement a plan that guarantees admission to a top percentile of students graduating from all in-state high schools.
Example 4: An institution could select schools (including community colleges) based on their demographics (e.g., their racial or socioeconomic composition), and grant an admission preference to all students who have graduated from those schools, regardless of the race of the individual student.
Example 5: An institution could consider an individual student’s race among other factors in its admissions procedures; in so doing, an institution should follow the legal guidelines concerning the individualized use of race.
The guidelines established by the Obama administration also advise colleges to recruit from underrepresented school districts because “such targeting may also assist the institution in achieving racial diversity.” Socioeconomic factors should also be considered, as colleges are advised to target schools that have mostly low-income households.
Colleges should also target districts or community colleges that “have a significant number of potential applicants who are of races underrepresented in the institution’s applicant pool.”
An institution could consider other recruitment and outreach tools to increase diversity in its applicant pool, such as, as part of its overall recruitment efforts, direct mail and other outreach efforts to potential applicants — including the use of advertising in media aimed at specific racial groups, participation by admissions staff in community-sponsored events aimed at informing underrepresented groups about the institution, and encouraging individual students to apply.
The Obama guidelines go further, urging colleges to “provide mentoring, tutoring, or other academic support to all enrolled students who are at risk of not completing their programs.” Since mentoring programs are limited by space, colleges should “consider race among a range of attributes” when selecting students.
The Obama DOJ and Department of Education also created guidelines for elementary and secondary schools in its “Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools.” In this document, schools are advised, not only “to achieve diversity,” but also to “avoid racial isolation.”
DC McAllister is a journalist and cultural/political commentator based in Charlotte, NC. Her work can be found at a variety of outlets, including PJ Media, The Federalist, Conservative Review, and Real Clear Politics. She has been a guest on Fox News, CNN, BBC, NRATV, NPR, Hannity radio, and BBC radio. She is the author of A Burning and Shining Light and co-author with Dan Bongino of Spygate: The Framing of Donald J. Trump, to be released in October 2018.